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Mr Koven added that having multiple platforms provide customers more “flexibility, control and an improved payment experience”.

“Businesses benefit from increased brand trust, a competitive edge, and broader consumer reach,” he said.

Enterprise Singapore announced in July that nine in 10 heartland enterprises have adopted at least one e-payment solution, such as Nets, FavePay and GrabPay. 

According to a 2023 survey published by German statistics company Statista, Singapore’s adoption rate of cashless payments was the highest in Southeast Asia at 97 per cent, based on payment methods at Singapore retail points-of-sale in 2022. 

Still, Singapore has some way to go before it can catch up with countries such as China has even higher levels of e-payment adoption.

While China has two main vendors in WeChat and Alipay, Ms Lim said that Singapore currently has no “leading” e-payment mechanism, with a more fragmented payment market consisting of many e-payment options.

Ms Lim added that this fragmentation increases resilience as consumers now have more options.

Prof Loh noted that merchants and consumers in China were given incentives to adopt e-payment, such as the vendors charging almost zero commission for merchants, which made participating in the digital payment landscape more attractive. 

For consumers, the ubiquity of local banking infrastructure with widely available ATMs and bank branches across Singapore, coupled with a “long-standing loyalty to cash” among older Singaporeans, make a shift to digital payments a “long-haul effort rather than a quick change”, Dr Lee said.

While working towards being a predominantly cashless society may be a goal, resilience in Singapore’s financial landscape cannot be measured only by the degree of cashlessness, some experts said. 

Technology issues aside, Prof Loh said that the consideration of going cashless should be “socially-oriented”, particularly considering accessibility for segments of the population that may not be e-payment savvy. 

“Trying to pace our adoption of being fully cashless is not because we are afraid of technology but because we want to leave no one behind”. 

Agreeing, Fair Tech Institute’s Ms Lim said that Singapore’s rapidly ageing population should be kept in mind when defining resilience in an e-payment landscape.

“Resilience comes in many forms — ease of payments and frictionless transactions are one part of it, but if you want to protect older folk from things like scams, you may actually need to re-introduce some friction into the system, to ensure safeguards are in place.”

Ms Koh, from cafe O Happi Place, said that she converted her business from being entirely cash-less to accepting cash payment, after realising that many older persons in the neighbourhood preferred to pay cash when they stopped by.

Dr Clarke said: “It is not realistic to eliminate cash entirely, but it will likely become less commonly used, as in the Nordic countries.”

Sweden and Norway are two examples of countries that have reduced cash in circulation by over 50 per cent in the last 10 years, mainly by introducing mobile instant payment systems, said Dr Clarke. 

“Singapore should move towards a “less-cash” rather than a “cashless” society for reasons of convenience, security and cost,” he added.

In 2021, then-MAS board member Ong Ye Kung had told Parliament that Singapore does not aim to be a cashless society, even as it promotes e-payments because “it is efficient, convenient and green”.

“Cash will continue to be a familiar and convenient way to transact,” said Mr Ong. 

For some like 70-year-old retiree Joyce Tan — who does internet banking on her laptop to settle monthly bills but is “not entirely comfortable” with using mobile banking services due to reports of scams and malware — encountering restaurants where she can only pay via mobile payments or QR codes is still a new experience for her.

While she has done mobile payments at stores where there are no other options, Ms Tan said she has a “love-hate” relationship with making e-payments on a phone. 

“We came from a time where everything was cash on delivery and paid by cash, so having to change to very modern systems sometimes gives us some doubt.” 

Even as digital banking life here resumes normalcy, Prof Loh said the Oct 14 disruption served as a reminder to stakeholders of the importance of not taking the e-payment ecosystem and its vulnerabilities for granted.

“No system is foolproof and watertight. By adopting particular technology, we should go in with the expectation that once in a while things might go awry, and we should be prepared and mindful of the possibility of that happening.”

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